TOLEDO, Ohio — Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson takes no consolation that the Fighting Irish came into the NCAA tournament with a CCHA title and as a top seed. The Irish had a bigger prize on their mind.
The prize of winning a national title is one the Irish will not be able to fulfill as Notre Dame fell to No. 4 seed St. Cloud State 5-1 Saturday afternoon in Toledo’s Huntington Center.
2013 NCAA Midwest Regional
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Despite landing as the last No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame nearly did not make the field of 16. The Irish lost five in a row at midseason season and found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.
Notre Dame needed to win in the CCHA semifinal over Ohio State to guarantee itself a spot the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame did a little more than that.
Notre Dame won the CCHA title last weekend in Joe Louis Arena after defeating Ohio State and Michigan, both 3-1. Following the CCHA playoffs, the Irish were undefeated in their previous nine games (7-0-2) before falling to the Huskies.
“We were happy about [our CCHA title] but we had a letdown tonight,” Notre Dame junior Bryan Rust said. “We had a hard time the start of the second half of the season but we battled back and showed great leadership and a lot of hard work and we got to the championship of the CCHA, and we were a little bit too high. We forgot about the things that got us here and all the little things.”
Junior forward T.J. Tynan agreed that a CCHA championship was not enough this year.
“Obviously, it is nice to win the CCHA championship and everything but it was extremely disappointing for us,” Tynan said. “We had one goal in mind and that was to win a national championship and the effort we gave today was not enough.”
Consistency has plagued the Irish in recent years. After not making the NCAA tournament in 2010, the Irish went all the way to the Frozen Four in 2011. Notre Dame was unable to build off that momentum and missed the NCAA tournament once again in 2012.
Tynan and Rust agreed that the program is progressing but not as fast as they would like.
The next time Notre Dame takes the ice, it will do so as members of Hockey East as the CCHA is disbanding at the end of the year. But it was too soon for players to look forward to next season.
Notre Dame will lose only four seniors after the season. The promise for next season is there for the Irish even though October is a long way away for a squad coming off a devastating loss.
“I am not worried about next year right now,” Tynan said. “I have a pretty sour taste from the loss we just had.”